What is Ping in Gaming? – Understand ping to get better at online play
Multiplayer experiences are a core part of gaming. Of course, most multiplayer games are played online, and gone are the days of dial-up internet when you had to have your friends come over to play split-screen. With online gaming, however, one of the issues that plagues many people are ping and high lag/latency.
What is ping in gaming?
In gaming ping is used to describe the delay between a players input and the servers response to those inputs. Lag is a spike in the time it takes for an action from your game to reach the game server and be registered, or for a message from the game server to be registered on your device. This delay is called ping and a lower ping is better as this means less delay and a smoother gameplay experience.
Ping is measured in milliseconds, which is shortened to ms. A ping of 15ms or less is generally considered excellent, between 15 and 45ms is great and 45 to 100ms is somewhat acceptable. A ping more then 100 to 250ms can be barely playable while anything above 250ms is often unplayable.
Of course, the playability at these pings depends both on the level of play and the type of game you’re playing. Some genres, such as FPS games are particularly sensitive to ping with most players noticing the issue around the 50-90ms range. MMOs and RTS games tend to be less sensitive to higher pings, while turn-based games barely suffer from high ping.
How important is ping in online gaming?
Ping tends to be more of an important factor in high-tier gameplay than it is for most people. Professional esports events are typically LAN events because this minimizes ping. This helps to ensure that the results of a game are down to individual performance rather than network performance.
One of the common genres where low ping is essential are shooter games, especially FPS games. You might have heard the term “peeker’s advantage” used frequently. This describes how the delay between clients due to ping allows a player coming around a corner to have a momentary advantage in reaction time, as their character model has not yet come around the corner for their opponent. The player with the lower ping will see you faster when peeking around a corner then your computer registers his movement.
If you notice unusual effects in your game, especially related to stuttering, characters teleporting, or hits connecting when they feel like they shouldn’t have, this could be an indicator of high ping. Many games, especially ping-sensitive ones, include some sort of ping indicator. Often this will show up in the escape or start menu of a game when in progress, although some offer it as an optional user interface element. In games where you specifically pick a server to connect to, rather than using a matchmaking service, the server browser almost always includes a ping indicator and often allows you to sort by best ping.
How to lower internet ping in gaming
Ping is primarily affected by two things: the distance between you and the game server, and how much network traffic is going through your network. Sometimes there can be hardware issues like bad infrastructure that cause loss of signal, but that is mostly down to your ISP.
The effect of distance is why many multiplayer games offer distinct regional servers. Gamers in the US are going to have a much better ping connecting to a North American server than they are connecting to a European one for example. If you happen to live particularly near where the game servers are hosted, you may be one of the lucky few with an excellently low ping in that game.
Other network activity at your house can have a significant effect on your ping. This is because your network connection is a limited resource and if there is a download using a large portion of your bandwidth then your game traffic may not get transmitted reliably. This especially affects devices connected to the router wireless due to interference, so it’s best to connect gaming devices via an ethernet cable.
If you do need to use a wireless connection, try to make sure you have a strong signal by being close to the access point and minimizing the number of objects, especially thick walls, in the way. Satellite-based internet tends to be extremely poor for ping-sensitive gaming due to the large distances the signals have to travel. Fibreoptic or cabled internet is recommended as these are faster and typically have lower pings.
To reduce your ping, it’s recommended that you minimize other network activity when playing ping-sensitive games. This is especially the case if most of your internet speed is being used by a download or high-resolution stream for example. It tends to be less of an issue if you have a high-speed internet connection and you’re connected to the router via an ethernet cable.